Last week, we read about God’s promise to Abraham, that Abraham would one day be blessed with descendants as numerous as the stars. This weekend’s Scripture reading, Genesis 15:15-21, narrows in on one of Abraham’s most notable descendants: Joseph. Some of you Bible students or Theater enthusiasts will be familiar with Joseph’s story, but if not, here’s a brief overview.
Joseph was the youngest of twelve sons and highly favored by his father Jacob, also known as Israel. When Joseph was a young man, his jealous older brothers sold him into slavery, telling their father that Joseph had died. Joseph started off as a slave in Egypt, but soon Egypt’s most influential leaders recognized Joseph’s hard work and prophetic powers. Joseph rose in stature and entered into a position of power as he enabled Egypt to survive a devastating famine. Joseph’s brothers eventually came to seek help from Joseph in Egypt, not recognizing him as their brother. Joseph revealed himself to his brothers and they tearfully reconciled themselves to one another. The brothers quickly traveled back home to fetch their ailing father, Israel, allowing Joseph and his father to be reunited shortly before his death. Genesis 50:15-21picks up just as their father Israel has died. Click here to read the passage.
My sermon this weekend will explore the theme of forgiveness as we also learn about the Facing Addiction program that is launching at First Lutheran Church and other churches across Sioux Falls, together with the recovery coaching organization Face It TOGETHER. To get a preview of what this program is all about, click here.
I’m aware that discussion of the Facing Addiction program this Sunday will stir up some feelings of worry and anxiety in our congregations, and I will try to be sensitive to this. The disease of addiction can cause so much pain and heartache, and create a need for reconciliation among families and friends. Those who have not successfully sought treatment are often aware of the pain their addiction causes loved ones. Those who have been in recovery for some time, or those still on the journey, perhaps cringe at the thought of past behaviors and events, even if amends have been made. Furthermore, even those who do not experience drug or alcohol addiction personally can still experience plenty of guilt when the subject is raised. These friends and family members ask themselves: “Could I have done something differently to help him?” or “Why didn’t I see the signs earlier?” or “I didn’t know how to be a supportive friend to ____, so I just gave up.”
Beloved children of God, fear not! God’s mercy is far greater than our sin. Christ is ours, forgiving our sins and comforting us with the promise of eternal life through the preaching of the word and the gifts poured out on us in the sacraments. Though humans meant to do evil to him on the cross, God worked through his life and death for good – our good – in order to bring about eternal salvation. He knows our faults and failures and bids us to give them up to him, that we may take hold of the new life he has given us so graciously through the Holy Spirit. All thanks and praise to the One who is faithful in all times, in every circumstance.
See you in church!